Letter (8) — You F*cking Died

Photo by Marcel Ardivan on Unsplash

To The Brother More Brother Than My Brother:

You weren’t supposed to fucking die.
I miss you. 
Daily.

We hadn’t talked since the day my dad died. Why is that? 

And then you died. You fucking died.
And I had so much still to say.
And I really needed to hear your laugh.
And I really needed a hug, but you fucking died. 

And I wanted to go with you. 
Some days I still want to go with you. 

We can be six year olds climbing old planted Christmas trees again. 

You can be the Luke Skywalker to my Chewbacca —
which isn’t the right combination of characters,
but our cast of tree climbing cohorts are all still here. 

They have fulfilling lives. 
They are happy. 
Social media says they are happy. 
They don’t want to go yet. 

You were happy. 
In the end.
After all the shit.
With your simple life, you were happy. 

I haven’t been happy since 1992.

I cowered from your contentment.
Even though I missed you, I recoiled.
I’m sorry. 

Daily.
It hurts.
You weren’t supposed to fucking die.

Letter (7) — The Poe Inquisition

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

To Mr. Deep Freeze:

It all began with the swing of a pendulum. 

To this day, I do not know if Edgar Allan Poe falls within the parameters of a normal American sixth grade curriculum. It became apparent quite quickly that gothic tales of horror were not approved by the missionary parents who enrolled their students in the deeply conservative, faith-based owned and operated academy in which I was student and you were teacher. 

What I remember most about sixth grade is reading — a lot of reading. We read individually. We read in groups. We read aloud. You were my first teacher, there in the mid-1980s, to recognize and address that students of the same age are not all reading on the same level — not merely the words themselves, but the comprehension of those words. 

Combined with my parents, who never limited my reading… 

Adult Beth: You know there was a lot of sex and violence in that Wagons West series you let me read as a kid, right? 

Librarian Mom: Yes, but there was a lot of history in there too.

… you recognized that for me to grow, I (and 2-3 fellow classmates) needed more challenging reading options than whatever we were supposed to be assigned. 

You also enjoyed reading aloud to the class, introducing new-to-us authors and genres. 

Enter Poe.

Enter, again, Librarian Mom — deeply conservative yet simultaneously loath to condone censorship. 

I only know of the Poe Inquisition because the other parents wanted Librarian Mom to be their champion — and she declined. 

I do not know the extent of the protest or how wide a spread the kerfuffle had on campus.
I do not know which of my classmates went to a parent in… fear… horror… disgust… or whatever emotion was stirred in their sheltered souls. 

I do know the pontifical pendulum of censorship missed your neck that year. 

“The Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.”

You finished reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” aloud to us and I loved every word.

Poe was my gateway drug into the deeper realm of gothic classics by Shelley, Stoker, Radcliffe, Stevenson, Wilde, du Maurier, the Brontës and more.

Beyond Poe, you were the unconventional teacher in an environment that praised convention and evangelicalism over education and acceptance. You were the catalyst of my literary renaissance.

I thank you. 

PS – Apologies for the nickname. Originality was lacking at age 11 and we were very much into derogatory homonymistic (I’m going to make that a word.) monikers. Our fourth grade teacher was known as Miss Sour. Same premise. We’re adults now and I respect your privacy. 

From Strong to Weak and Back Again

Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash

No one should have to endure mental illness alone. 

As humans, we need other humans. Connections are what keep us rising day after day. Living with mental illness creates a need that reaches beyond connection. We need a support team able and willing to face whatever comes because life can get pretty gnarly when shit goes down — not currently in our “right minds” shit. It happens sometimes despite my best efforts to remain high-functioning

Self awareness is tainted when, in my case, I’m  manic, melancholic or (my favorite) mixed. A mixed bipolar episode is when I experience melancholy and mania at the same time. They are common but beyond difficult to describe — especially when mania carries this whole “out of body” sort of scenario.

A good support team has to be able to step in and bring about the self awareness I need through alternative means. 

This can be simple. 

A coworker once approached me after reports of a rather raucous holiday weekend reached her. She called me into her office and made it clear her intentions were of the most serious nature. “Are you okay,” she asked? No one ever asked me if I was okay. I burst into tears and she drove me straight to my doctor’s office. 

It isn’t always that simple.

Fast forward a few years — I was both suicidal and deep in bipolar debt. The only symptom I allowed was a dip in my job performance. I’m an “exceeds expectations” kind of employee and the review I received that year further broke me. It was the catalyst that sent me careening down an even darker path from which I finally found the strength to do the one thing that seemed unbearably out of reach.

With no one to intercede for me, I asked for help. 

I am no good at asking for help. More than one friend will use the word “strong” when asked to describe me. Physically? Sure. Mentally? Most of the time. Like a cat, I’m far too adept at hiding pain. I am a master at masking melancholy. 

I have openly asked for help (in regard to my mental illness) exactly twice. The first time led to my diagnosis. The second time saved my life, but I still had to live with a shit employee performance review and a ton of debt. These were the extremes — when I, or someone I loved, was in harm’s way due to my instability. At neither of these points did I have the support team I needed. 

To be on the support team for someone like me, there are some key points to remember: 

Just because you are family to someone with a mental illness does not mean you are a mental health advocate — nor do you qualify for their support team by default. 

You have to replace supposition and misconception with constant education and understanding. A lot we know about bipolar disorder has changed in the 27 years since my diagnosis. If you can’t keep up, you can’t be on my team.

I have an illness.

My d i s e a s e has to be treated with the same care and attention as any physical disease.

I still have very real feelings.

Not every emotional outburst is the result of my medication being off-kilter or signal that I’m sliding into a bout of paranoia. In fact, I keep things close enough in check that most of the time, I’m doing okay. My feelings are natural, not bloated. Consider that something else may be upsetting me. If I’m particularly distant or hostile, consider that those feelings may have something to do with you… and that I’m not overreacting.

I can be cruel.

It sucks. It’s no point of pride. When pushed to the brink of madness by physical or emotional exhaustion, I tend to say shit I don’t mean. I have failings, sure, but most of the time I’m a pretty nice person. Cruelness is a symptom. I may not even remember what I have said or done — or the full implication may not “hit me” for weeks or months. I do try to make amends. Sometimes this makes being on my team difficult. If I have hurt you in the past, I truly apologize. 

You cannot replace my medical team.

Medical practitioners are part of my support team but you are not part of my medical team. Do not WebMD me. Do intercede if I seem unstable. Do not recommend medications you see on television. Do ask if I feel my meds are still working. Do not act like my therapist. Do ask if I’m okay. 

My mental health is ultimately my responsibility.

I still have to own my own actions. I live with a multitude of long-range consequences. Bipolar disorder affects not only me, but everyone around me — especially my support team. And sometimes that support team has to change, even the medical team.

So, for the third time, many months after I should have, I finally asked for help. 

I’m so tired of the word “unprecedented,” but the last three years have been brutal (on many of us, not just me) and riddled with enormous life alterations. I’m a fan of change, but the big emotions have been excessive. There has been job stuff. Loss of friend stuff. Children stuff. More job stuff. Separation from family stuff. So. Much. Stuff. And I — I am not okay. 

This is me relinquishing my weaknesses and finding strength in support.

I am not okay enough that I started talk therapy after far too many years. 
I am not okay enough that I found counseling alone inadequate.
I am not okay enough that I started the process of a full psychiatric reevaluation. 
I am not okay enough that I sidelined individuals who hinder my mental recovery.
I am not okay enough that I am actively telling friends and chosen family and coworkers. 

I am not okay enough that I’m telling you — 
just in case you too need to stop masking and ask for help. 

Connections

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

I first wandered into a chat room circa 1996.

The internet was different then — simpler. But, we were already defining a new way to connect and a new language (brb, ttfn, lol, wtf) that would carry humanity and our digital connections into a new age of what would become social media. 

I don’t remember a damn soul I chatted with in those early web days, but that didn’t stop me from trying again and again. 

I landed on MySpace in August 2006
… Facebook in June 2007
… Twitter in February 2009
… Spotify in July 2011
… Instagram in August 2011
… Tumblr in March 2013
… and LinkedIn in May 2013

Somewhere in there or between then and now, I took a spin on Google+, Vine, About.me and a handful of other networks, sites, or apps. Some defunct. Others — forgettable. 

And, of course, I blogged. For a good ten years, I waxed poetic, spewed my thoughts and cultivated connections through Living a Quotable Life, a now disabled (though absolutely backed up), personal blog. It was the height of the blogosphere. 

We all had something to say. 

It was also the height of connecting with like-minded humans on Twitter… before it got too loud, obnoxious, and political. 

I dropped a whopping one tweet and two retweets this year. 
In 2021, that total was a combined four — including this gem from Feb. 8, 2021:

*tap*tap*tap*

Is this thing on? 

*breaks Twitter hiatus*

I did not, in fact, break my Twitter hiatus, but I can’t help wondering if I’m missing out on something. 

After all, I have met and cultivated some incredible connections across cyberspace in this wild ride of technological innovation since the dawn of the millennium. Many of these individuals, I am honored to call, “friend.” True friends — not the pseudo-acquaintance can-you-see-me-in-your-feed Facebook friend. Some of us have met up in person. Others I hope to meet one day. 

Once we get past the predators, ghosting, catfishing — blah, blah, blah, new words for horrible people and their horrible actions, blah, blah, blah — scoffing at friendships or love matches found and tended in digital environments has become blasé.

Many of us cherish at least one other like human we have found online.

This week, after fifteen years, one of these humans made their way through the euphemistic “my neck of the woods.” Although, in my case, it’s not too far off.  There are many trees here. Time was short, but the connection was instantaneous. We were unapologetically open and anything but awkward. Our conversations never missed a beat.

We rambled on like old friends occasionally parted rather than virtual acquaintances newly familiar. 

This friendship based on similar life experiences, intellectual interests, and a seriously corny sense of humor has merit. It is real. It is as real as lifelong friendships grown from childhood, nurtured through tumultuous teenage years, and allowed to bloom in adulthood. 

And it saved me.

It’s been almost three years of all things pandemic. I’m broken and beaten down… numb… and alone in the crowd. Nurturing connections, old or new, is somehow more difficult and I feel pushed to the outskirts of almost every relationship in my life. I am a pretty terrible “out of sight, out of mind” friend. That’s on me. I know and I’m working on being better. 

After this week, I’m a little more awake…
all thanks to a connection I made on Twitter in 2007.

Letter (6) — We That Never Was Us

Image by Layers on Pixabay

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
— William Butler Yeats, Among School Children

To Him:

Why do we dance this charade?

Words veiled in blinding plumage.
The peacock’s narcissistic strut.

Tapping innuendo, one feather coerced.
Then two.
A false confidence masquerade.

You foreshadow covenants.
I feign indifference.

We tease the unknown.

I curtsy.
Eyes seduce behind veil of steel.

You bow.
Hand extended in burning anticipation.

We touch. Fire to Ice.

I melt.
You mock.

We pause.

Footsteps echo far.
Illumination dims.
I waltz alone behind the curtain.

We that never was Us deteriorates in darkness.


Note: This letter was originally published August 16, 2020 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage. The poem is a tweaked version of an original written a few years ago. The more contemplation I gave in writing a full letter to Him, the more I realized these words say all I need to say.

The Joke

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

A workaholic extrovert walks into pandemic isolation…

Somewhere in that phrase lies a joke. Four months plus along and it has yet to reveal the punchline, but I can tell it is still there. Like everything else in 2020, I anticipate it will jump out and surprise me when I least expect it.

Today is my birthday. It’s a tough year for jovial festivities.

Birthdays ending in fives or zeros always bring a bit of reflection and one year ago I might have admitted needing to slow down. This is absolutely not what I had in mind. I longed for a proper pandemic-free vacation that required a passport. A couple weeks spent anywhere-but-here would have fueled me for months to come.

As it happens, a couple weeks turned into months and anywhere-but-here became only here.
And here I am.

For the first six weeks of this global pandemic phenomenon, I stayed home. My car decided to get sick with the rest of the planet. I had no choice but to do the right and recommended thing. In that time, I interacted (in person) with three grocery delivery saints, my property manager, one coworker who dropped off my monthly prescriptions and another who blessed me with a vodka replenishment, as well as one pizza delivery dude.

I am a talker. I love people time. Seven brief in-person human interactions in six weeks is the absolute antithesis of how I prefer to exist.

I also love to work. Who’s ready for live events to resume? Even if this pandemic pushes my career in a new direction, I am itching to go to a concert or attend a convention. All of this “leisure time” is making me crazy. Since the age of 18, I have not had this much… time.

Idle is an unnatural state I learned to embrace — within reason.

Éowyn says, “Hi!”

I needed a project to manage and I chose my home.

The time and attention to detail I normally give my clients, I poured into my apartment. There has been much painting and redecorating and decluttering over the last few months. I am no minimalist. My style is very much global eclectic based on my childhood in Kenya and travel adventures.

On this birthday, I’m happy to be here in my home. It is a place I can breathe, rest, and renew.
The joke is most definitely on me and my wanderlusting heart.

Still, I am more than ready for 2020 to cease with its shenanigans. Aren’t you?

12 Sci-Fi Quotes for an Election Year

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

One of the prevailing themes in science fiction is that of the power struggle. Who will be in charge — of humanity, the planet, the universe? Who will prevail? What will it mean for the rest of us?

Here are twelve quotes to consider as we head back to the polls here in the United States.


“To permit irresponsible authority is to sell disaster.” ―Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

“Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class — whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy.” — Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

“My great uncle emigrated from Earth. He missed it terribly. He used to tell me stories when I was a little boy about these endless blue skies, free air everywhere, open water all the way to the horizon… I could never understand your people. Why, when the universe has bestowed so much upon you, you seem to care so little for it?” — The Expanse (S1, E4)

“You’ve lost sight of the purpose of the law: to protect its citizens, not persecute them.” — Battlestar Galactica (S1, E6)


“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” — Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Some people think the future means the end of history. Well, we haven’t run out of history quite yet. Your father called the future — ‘the undiscovered country.’ People can be very frightened of change.” — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“The best alliances are formed from necessity, not convenience.” — Dark Matter (S3, E8)


“John Adams was a farmer. Abraham Lincoln was a small-time lawyer. Plato and Socrates were teachers. Jesus was a carpenter. To equate judgment and wisdom with occupation is, at best, insulting.” — Warehouse 13 (S1, E10)

“One of the most effective forms of… sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven — or even proven at all — to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn’t there at all… over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfiring- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.” — Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

“God doesn’t take sides.” — Battlestar Galactica (S1, E10)

“The seed of doubt was there, and it stayed, and every now and then sent out a little root. It changed everything, to have that seed growing. It made Ender listen more carefully to what people meant, instead of what they said. It made him wise.” — Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game


Vote wisely.

Letter (5) — If You’re From Africa, Why Are You White?

Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash

To my extraordinary black savior:

“Beth, This sure has been a pleasant surprise. I have never had a real friend from the motherland… ” (10th grade yearbook)


“You’re the girl from Africa.”

It was only third period on the first day of school — and I hadn’t told anyone I was from Kenya. Turning toward your voice, I had to look up. Then I had to look up again.

Two teenagers could not have been more different.

I was still short then — a small, talkative, blonde, white girl with green eyes. I’m taller now and I still talk a lot, but you probably wouldn’t recognize me. You reminded me of a Maasai warrior — tall and black. In place of a spear and shield, you sported a letterman jacket to indicate your rank.

“Yeah, I’m from Africa.”

“Cool,” you smiled, folding down into the normal person sized desk. How did you fit in those desks?

I was hoping to fly under the radar that year. Too late. Someone in the church youth group had talked. It only took two days for the harassment to start.

Attending a faith-based, multicultural boarding school in the middle of an African country shielded me from many things, but not the cruelty of junior high. I had spent the last two years enduring relentless torment from two girls in my class. An athlete, being a tomboy helped on the sports field, but we had reached an age where I was no longer considered “one of the guys.” The end of ninth grade left me feeling shunned and lonely. Perhaps it merely served to prepare me for something much worse.

What it did shield me from was blatant and brutal racism. Oh, I was aware of it. My father was once offered a position in South Africa. I cried and cried. I did not want to live with apartheid. He declined the opportunity, in part, because of my feelings. Still, at fifteen, I continued to believe racism in America existed only in history books.

One morning, I was making my way between classes when a boy almost knocked me over. And then another. And then another. In the midst of being jostled down the hallway, I heard one of them hiss, “Ni**er lover.”

I was not then, nor will I ever be, shamed into feeling guilty for loving black people. More often than I care to admit, I am angry at and ashamed of white people — like those high school bullies in the hallway. There was no denial, but I also didn’t take a stand. I was alone and outnumbered.

For a week I tried to find alternative routes between classes. They would find me. I skipped lunch and hid in the library every day. I cried at home every night. I asked to transfer to the high school across town — one where the student body was predominately black. I wouldn’t give my father a reason for the request, so I stayed. All I wanted was to go home to Kenya.

At a time when I was angry, confused, and terrified, you saw me.

The second week of school began. The bell ending our mutual third period French class rang. I gathered my books slowly, planning my zig-zag-mad-dash to Geometry. When I got to the door, you were there and asked me to wait. There was no way to get past you, so I did just that. Before long, we were joined by one of your friends.

Together, you escorted me to class — quietly daring anyone in the hall to take you on. No one did. I felt relief. I felt safe. When that class ended, you appeared again. And again. And again. At home that night, I didn’t cry.

Later that week, one of the bullies stepped into our path and issued a racially-laced verbal challenge. I expected a fight. It didn’t come. You took the high road and we just kept walking. Without backup, he had no choice but to move out of the way. Until then, each friend you brought along was also black. That incident brought a radical change.

When the bell rang ending first period the next day, I met you at the door. This time the other student with you was white. He was the first in a multi-colored rotation of personal escorts — most seniors, most athletes (We had talked a lot about sports while waiting for French class to start.).

Together, the upperclassmen and athletes took a unified stand that day.

The novelty of a blonde girl from Africa wore off in less than a month. I no longer needed a protection detail because, ultimately, I am white. Though I wouldn’t have made it through the first few weeks (or French class) without you, two other girls from foreign countries transferred into school late. We formed our own Kenyan-Turkish-Sicilian coalition and became fast friends.

I think of that time period often because it opened my eyes to the obvious problem of racism that still exists in the United States. My worldview shifted on its axis.

When I returned to Kenya at the end of the school year, I started noticing some of the negative impacts of colonialism in the country I loved so much. I also began grappling with the “White Savior Complex” and how, without some version of it, I would not have Kenya as my home. It would be another few years before I truly grasped the concept of white privilege and how I benefited from it. Eventually, I got there too — and that is when I realized I could and should do more.

My one month of mild teenage harassment because I lived in Africa can in no way compare to the lifetime of discrimination you withstand because you are descended from there.

I recently had the honor of meeting Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine. The trauma she tolerated, not just on her first day at Central High School, but the ongoing, relentless, daily torment forced upon her, shone a harsh light of perspective on my own memories at fifteen. I have never been more in awe of another human. When asked how she put one foot in front of the other that fateful day, she said:

“I am an ordinary person. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances can do extraordinary things.”

Thank you, J. Thank you for being extraordinary.
To this day, I remember you. I see you. I hear you.
Your life matters.


Note 1: This letter was originally published on May 17, 2020 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage. 

Note 2: #BlackLivesMatter is the modern, digital version of the Selma March. It is a movement advocating much needed change. The fact that protesting racial inequality is still necessary (make no mistake, it is necessary) half a century later, is shameful enough without this black rallying call being appropriated into some version of #AllLivesMatter. No one is saying your life isn’t important, but it likely isn’t the target of violence, hate, and oppression either. Prejudice and shaming are not equal to systematic racism; nor are they mutually exclusive.

Note 3: I learned over the course of the school year that the student body was not overwhelmingly racist, but they were definitely privileged.

You Have Bipolar Disorder, Now What?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Get on the bus to bipolar summer camp, but be careful which one you choose.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is jarring. Because public perception places the burden of mental illness on behavior and not biology, so do you. Right now you are more worried about individuality and less about health. Your natural tendency for self-preservation is screaming, “But, this is just who I am!” What now?

Let’s Go to Camp!

Imagine you can get away to post-diagnosis summer camp.* There are four buses waiting — each one takes you to a different compass point around Lake Bipolar: Camp Denial, Camp Defiant, Camp Despair, and Camp Driven. Which one do you choose?


Camp Denial (East)

Denial [dih-nahy-uhl], noun, disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing

Wow! This is one crowded bus. This is because pretending you don’t have a problem is the easy way out. It’s easy because you are already so good at it. Odds are you didn’t land on the doorstop of your diagnostician at the first warning sign. Despite how crowded the seats are, it’s comfortable and familiar. You have been hovering on the outskirts of Camp Denial for a long time. Now you can come right in and you will have a lot of help getting here.

“Keep calm and carry on.”
“Tomorrow is a new day.”
“It’s okay; we can pray it away.”
“Are you sure you have a problem?”

Sound familiar? Camp Denial might be comfortable, but it isn’t healthy for you or those around you. Campers here don’t take medications or visit the camp counselors. They treat camp like just another summer vacation. It is very much a land of make-believe, but no one here is living a fantasy life.

There are two one-way paths leading out of camp — one going north and one going south. Denial campers can switch camps, but they can never return once they accept Lake Bipolar as reality. The north path is narrow and appears challenging. The path to the south is wide and clear; it’s easy.


Camp Defiant (South)

Defiant [dih-fahy-uhnt], adjective, boldly resistant or challenging

“I know me better than anyone else!”
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
“I’m not like those people.”
“Look at how much fun I’m having!”

The campers at Camp Defiant are a motley crew. Think twice before joining them. Make no mistake, the choice is yours. Choosing to attend Camp Defiant means you know your diagnosis is very much real and accurate. You know it is affecting you and everyone around you in a negative way and you make a conscious decision to ignore it. People drown here all the time. This is the path to addiction — drug addiction, sex addiction, alcohol addiction. It leads to unemployment, family court, and, in extreme cases, prison or death.

We hear about Camp Defiant often. Mainstream media loves reporting the salacious and tragic things that happen here — to excess. These campers are vocal and belligerent. They are tipping the balance of mental health conversation and influencing what people believe. Unfortunately, they seem to be having so much more fun than the rest of us and campers from Denial and Despair are drawn here in droves.


Camp Despair (West)

Despair [dih-spair], noun, loss of hope; hopelessness

While there were only a handful of people on your bus, the first thing you notice about Camp Despair is how many people are here. Most campers do not get on this bus immediately following diagnosis; they transfer from one of the other camps for a variety of reasons.

“I’m so tired.”
“It’s of no use.”
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“No one wants me like this.”

Like Camp Denial, this is place of passive response to your diagnosis. Maybe you were partying hard at Camp Defiant, but now you’re in withdrawal. Perhaps you accepted your diagnosis and, unable to remain a Denial camper, you got lost wandering around the lake and ended up here. Even campers to the north end up here on occasion. We all do. Living with bipolar disorder is hard. We all feel like giving up sometimes, but it is important to not linger here. The longer you stay, the easier it is to never leave. 


Camp Driven (North)

Driven [driv-uh n], adjective, being under compulsion, as to succeed or excel

Camp Driven is your True North. It is the fixed point in your spinning world, but few of us get on this bus in the beginning. It is the active, but often difficult choice because you know it’s going to be hard work. Having lived in various states of denial, despair, or defiance without knowing why, a few campers fully embrace their diagnosis and jump on the bus to Camp Driven because a diagnosis gives them an answer. They have an immediate desire for change.

Even if you’re ready, the bus ride to camp is not an easy one. The road is bumpy. There are a lot of distractions and you will probably deviate to the local amusement park for a ride on the medicinal roller-coaster before your journey can continue. Once you get here, and start doing the work, camp is pretty great.

Most of us came from another camp on the lake. We share in at least one of your experiences. Let us help you. Like us, the counselors here are comprised of people who want to see you succeed — friends, family, coworkers, physicians. We have lifeguards! Every day volunteers venture down the east and west paths to help other campers, step-by-step, make their way to Camp Driven. It turns out the paths heading north are lined with helping hands — once you get past the entrance. We even send a lifeboat to Camp Defiant.

Here lives a community of people with bipolar disorder who are doing their best to manage this strange and mysterious illness. No two have the same story, support system, or prescriptions. Some campers came straight here on the first bus, others have spent time in every camp around the lake. You might even meet someone who disappears and comes back on a regular basis, but they come back because they are driven to be better.

In Camp Driven, you learn to replace the panicked voice of self-preservation with one of self-affirmation.

“Me and my life are important.”
“I need help.”
“I am not alone.”
“I am not defined by my illness. I am still me.”

If we can drown out media cacophony of other campers and change the conversation around mental health, then maybe Camp Driven will become the most popular spot on the lake.


This article was originally published May 3, 2020 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage. 

*This is written from personal experience and meant to inspire or provide hope. If you have, or think you have, a mental illness, please consult a physician. Though bipolar summer camp does not exist, there are many organizations and facilities available to help you cope with both your illness and the diagnosis itself. To learn more about finding success in the workplace while living with bipolar disorder, read The Myth of High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder.

Letter (4) — #MeToo

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

To the man who grabbed my 12-year-old ass:

Fuck you.

I was twelve.
You were the first man who touched me without permission.
You were an adult.

I was so small that I looked nine.
Skinny… no, scrawny.
Stringy hair. Tomboy.
Nothing advertised sex appeal.
You pedophile.

We were on a train platform in Germany.
It was broad daylight and the sun was shining.

I moved away from my parents and older brother to sketch a crumbling tower on the side of a hill. Our father encouraged us to keep a travel journal.

It was quiet.
This station was in the countryside.
No hustle. No bustle. No throngs of people.
For a while our family was alone on the platform.
Then you appeared.

You paced back and forth from one end of the platform to the other.
I was aware of you, but I was not watching you.
Like us, I thought you were just waiting.
We had waited with so many people at other train stations.
That was a mistake.

During one pass, you came closer.
You grabbed my ass.

I was shocked — convinced I imagined you touching me.
Don’t all predators bet on fanciful childlike minds?

But then you came back. You touched me again.
You grabbed my ass. Again!

I wager what came next was unexpected.
I spun around, smacking you with the journal in my hand.
Stunned, you stepped back.

We stared at each other.
I could see the guilt in your eyes.
I could see the fear.
What if I screamed?
You didn’t make a scene.
But neither did I.
Then you quietly left the platform.

But, you never left my mind.

My family never knew.
Had he known — had he seen — my brother would have beat the shit out of you. Twenty minutes later we boarded a train.

I was twelve.
Naive. Innocent.
Then you grabbed my ass and everything changed.
It’s the day I learned girls always have to live on high alert.

Again, fuck you.

You were the first man to touch me without permission.
You were not the last.


Note: This letter started as a personal Twitter thread at height of the #metoo movement. It was then published on April 30, 2020 via Medium. Later in 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage.